Beauty is the Beast by Tomo Matsumoto

I used to read a lot more manga than I do now. Maybe 3 or 4 years ago it was, but then I started focusing more on books because you only have so many hours in the day when you aren't working, and there are so many open series going on right now that I'm afraid to start anything. 30+ books and the author is still going on? Nooo, I can't take it! Meanwhile my cousin is a connoisseur of all things manga, and is always trying to lure me back. Despite my hysterical "no, don't try to get me sucked in" conversations with her on the phone, she's taken to just sending me volumes of manga in the mail.

Last week out of the blue I received the complete 5 volume set of Beauty is the Beast. I think she decided on this series because:

1) It's finished so I won't be complaining about that

2) Each book is broken up into a series of short vignettes about eleventh grader Eimi Yamashita's life at the boarding house she lives in, so there are plenty of places for me to put the book down and take it slow.

3) The artwork is very nice

4) There is a love triangle with 2 cute guys and one girl.

Eimi is a humorous character – small and cute, always eating and without any real care for social boundaries, she has no problems befriending "The Beast" – who she nicknamed Wanichin. That's Takami Wanibuchi, a gorgeous but scary guy who lives in the boy's dorms and who no one knows much about so speculation runs wild. Everyone is amazed that he tolerates Eimi and allows her to give him a silly nickname (like she does everyone else). Eimi idolizes him, even though she has her own admirer – Satoshi Shimonuki, another good looking boy. Thier relationship evolves slowly throughout the volumes, but it's very lightly and humorously done. Meanwhile we also meet a lot of other friends and characters that live at the dorm, like Misao, Eimi's beautiful roommate who loves the female form, or Suzu a cool androgenous girl who is the object of many girl-crushes. It's a light-hearted glimpse into typical dorm room living in Japan. It didn't take me long to read, and while I wasn't turning the pages in a frenzy to find out what happens next it was a decent read. The focus of the volumes seemed more on showing what life was like in the dorms with the romantic relationships taking a backseat to friendships and bonds formed from living together. I found the mystique of Wanichun a bit silly, but I guess rumor can make a reputation very exaggerated, and he was considered special for being a "returnee". That's someone who lived outside Japan and came back (in his case he lived with his grandfather in Mexico for some time). I didn't find it that special, but anyway. The other complaint I had was how abruptly the series ends. There is little (maybe two pages) to let you know who ends up with who and no information as to how that happened. Just one moment Wanichin is talking to Satoshi, and the next we see the future years later. I suppose it's to make the reader fill things in with their imagination, but it was a bit of an artsy ending and I prefer something more to the point.

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